Japan: 1/27-1/28

January 27

I’m going to Japan and the fuckers at the airport stole my lotion! I swear I’ve been through airports a hundred times with all kinds of illegal liquids and I’ve never been stopped, and now they steal my lotion! They ran my bag like a hundred times through the scanner too.

But anyway. I’M WAITING FOR THE PLANE FOR JAPAN. I am so excited. I can hardly breathe. I have several places staked out. I want to go to Ginza, which is the shopping district. While I’m there, well actually before I go there, I want to go to the Tsukiji fish market. Apparently you can get the rawest, fishiest, Japanese-est sushi in the world there. Or I guess probably just slabs of raw fish. It sounds delicious and I definitely want to check there early, apparently the lines can get REALLY long.

I met Mackensie on couchsurfing and she lives in the Shunjuku area, which the Internet says is great for clubs and such so maybe I can meet up with her on Saturday night.

And last but not least, on probably Sunday I want to hit up Sensoji Temple and Ueno Park / Zoo because they are super close to the Chisun Inn in Asakusa, which is where I’m staying.

Also on my list are far-out places. I don’t want to go north because of the radiation, or I would go to Hokkaido. What I want to do near Tokyo is go to Kamakura, the place near Yokohama that has a huge freaking Buddha carved into stone which I would LOVE to see. I would also like to see Mt. Fuji, but there are no climbing programs in the wintertime so that’s not as important to me.

But tonight, when I get in and settle in it will probably be about 8:00. I’ll call Mackensie and see if she’s around, see if my phone even works in Japan. If I can’t get in touch with her or Jeff I’ll just wander around Tokyo myself.

AHHHH I just got so excited. ME. TOKYO. TOGETHER. OMFG.

8:00 is more than enough to get in and walk around and just enjoy some sights, maybe see if there’s any street food around, maybe wander around

OMFG SO HAPPY!!!

***

Got to Japan. Was completely wrong in thinking that not knowing Japanese would not be a problem. Ending up saying “ASAKUSA???” to about 10 million people. There was a nice guy on the train with his mother who showed me to get off at the WRONG STOP I might add but still he really tried to be helpful. So when I got around later I realized that actually I was at the wrong stop so I got back on with a couple ASAKUSA????s later, and then when I got off the second guy this boy on the train, Takuro, followed me out trying to talk to me. It became quite evident that he only knew about 10 words of English and the same for me with Japanese, so when we met up with his friend, they were really sweet and actually walked me to the Chisun Inn. Takuro gave me his business card and I totally intend to hit them both up. I took funny pictures with them and told them what great tomodachis they are. The girl didn’t really want to walk me to the hotel, but the guy was totally nice. I gave them a hug afterwards and they were SO awkward about it haha.

It was funny, before I even got on the train I wanted to ask a cab to take me to Asakusa and thankfully remembered “IKURA DESU KA???” so I was able to ask him how much and found out that it would be almost all of my 30,000 yen. What the hell. So I took the subway instead and when I was asking the first two of 10 million “ASAKUSA??” this giant black guy came up to me and was like “That’s awesome” clearly thinking I am conversing with these Japanese women when really I’m completely floundering.

But now I’m here, in the hotel. It’s nice, kinda small and SUPER hot, but I’m just so happy to be here. I literally walked around for an hour and my face hurts from smiling so much. What is it about Japan??? It calls to me so.

It’s about 10:30 now, since we are an hour ahead. I have dates set to meet up with Jeff and Mackensie. I’m excited 🙂

 

January 28

Saturday, called McKensie at about 11 AM, from the hotel phone. Clearly not having a cell phone is gonna make life hard haha. She told me to meet her at the subway exit. She was late and so I started to use a pay phone to call her but she got to me in time. She’s really pretty, with short blonde hair and a bright red coat. Anyway she came and took me to this nice sushi place, even though she doesn’t eat meat (or tries not to, based on moral grounds) and we ate HORSE MEAT in sashimi form over the little ball of rice. Horse meat is chewy but not bad and, as I learned, rich in iron. I was so surprised to see 马on the sign, but it was true, it was really UMA. The table was rotating so we could grab little pieces of sushi off as we wanted and then we paid by how many plates we had at the end. Anyway then we went and got ice cream, green tea kind, and then afterward we went and got taiyaki, the little fish shaped pastry with red bean inside, which was delicious, and then the little mochi balls on sticks which was decidedly NOT haha.

Then she had to go to work in Shinjuku, where she teaches English and religion to kids. So I went with her to Shinjuku and got off and looked around but it turned out that you really can’t get anywhere without a map. So I spent like two hours finding a bookstore and then finding an English map. Seriously, not knowing Japanese was completely debilitating. I was extremely surprised how important knowing Japanese turned out to be. I can’t believe I just wrote that, I’m no better than any normal American tourist now. Anyway so I bought that map and walked up to Takashimaya, a huge mall. Before buying the map I went to the department store with Uniqlo in it and found a nice little shop where I bought a little porcelain dachshund and some nice earrings. It totaled over 1000 yen, these two purchases. EXPENSIVE. HOLY SHIT. But it was worth it!

Then I walked over to nearby Shinjuku Gyoen and managed to get there just as it was closing but to be honest I didn’t feel that much of a loss over not seeing a park. I had no phone so I arranged beforehand to meet McKensie at the one exit at Shinjuku station, the largest subway station in Tokyo and also by far the most confusing. I mean I hate everything about Tokyo subway but this is just the worst, haha. Anyway so I met McKensie and then we went to a 270 yen store at the top of a place, we had our own private little table and lots of paper windows around us. We bought all sorts of stuff. They gave us edamame, then we ordered soft tofu that you were supposed to sprinkle salt on, then SQUID GUTS (gross. One of the few foods that I couldn’t eat, it was cold and HARD and slimy!! Blech) and then we also had a couple eggplant dishes and this really good Japanese fried chicken that was my favorite there actually.

McKensie says that the Japanese custom is on Christmas Eve, to buy cake and get a KFC bucket of chicken. WTF.

So halfway through she says that she is texting her Indian friend Nick, and that he will meet us. She directs him to the wrong place at first so we just meet him at the station after we finish and decide to go to Shibuya together, the Times Square of Tokyo. We meet Nick and he’s really tall and attractive. We joke about how I hopped the gate apparently once so my card stopped working. We then walk up and get to the square and the cool thing about this one street, right in front of Starbucks, is that when all the people start walking all at once in all directions, it is really cool to watch. So we watched that and took a picture, and then we went to Starbucks because we intend to stay up really late. I got a white chocolate mocha and the other two got coffee and pastries. So anyway we go there and chat a while and I’m surprised how easy it is to talk to them! It’s really nice actually. Anyway the lady comes over eventually and tells us that we can’t take pictures from the window (which is code for TIME TO LEAVE, since apparently the Japanese are never direct about anything). So we leave and go to this little bar and sit there, and I get this Cassius berry mixed drink that’s really good. Nick is really nice, and he considers going out with me as I am going out with Jeff and his other friends.

Anyway we go back to the station so I can meet Jeff. Jeff is tall and very confident-seeming. He is an alpha male. He is a white guy from Philadelphia. We go into Starbucks to meet the other surfers, Justin and Jessica, and also his friend Vook.

Justin is ethnically Hongkongese, lives in Japan, grew up in Alberta Canada, and speaks all three languages fluently. He’s really snarky but I find him hilarious. His cousin is Jessica, who is a big Hong Kong girl who is really sweet-natured. Vook is Jeff’s Australian friend, but I found out that he is originally from Montenegro / Serbia, which is AWESOME. He even speaks Serbian.

Anyway so we go to the grocery store to buy liquor. I don’t partake, but everyone else gets jars of plum liquor with the plums still in the jar. It’s weird. I tried it and it wasn’t bad. Then we wandered to the club at which Jeff had +4 people, so me, Vook, Justin, and Jessica all got in for free, as well as Justin’s beautiful Japanese friend Ayako. So anyway we went and this club is just awesome, a hundred chandeliers hang from the ceiling and there are multiple levels. I go there and we start dancing. I buy Jeff a drink to say thanks for the free tickets, which prompts him to say, I’ve never been in Japan and a girl has bought a drink for me. So that’s nice. Anyway we are there from roughly 12:30 until 5 AM when it closes.

Creepy Indian guy staring at me! As well as weird white kid who told me it was crowded like ten million times. I GOT IT, DUDE. Dancing with Jeff, not sure if interested or just flirting with every girl there. Most likely that. Vook does not dance with anyone, neither does Ayako. I watched Justin grind with Jessica, HAHA. I dance dirty with Jessica a lot. Everyone is 27 or older, btw. One point it is Jeff, Jessica, me, and Justin HAHA, Justin is an awkward dancer but he seems like he would be good if he just tried.

Anyway so yes at the end we decide to leave and Jeff convinces all of us to go to KTV at like, 6 AM. Before that happens Justin walks Ayako to the subway station and we meet this weird, flaming Turkish guy who Jessica totally falls in love with. He is wearing a fur coat that he made himself since he is a fashion designer, studying in Germany. His voice is absurdly high and like I said, he’s SUPER GAY.

So we go to KTV but when we talk to the guy standing outside in the street it turns out to be mad expensive so we just go to a bar. But at that point J+J want to leave since they are tired, and I leave with them because I am getting off with them and I don’t want to have to figure out how to get back by myself. We stop at an udon noodle place and I get udon with raw egg on top as well as tempura chicken, tempura squid and the little rice ball in the sweet soy skin that sometimes comes with the sushi. Then we took the train back and they helped me get there, and I was talking to Justin on the way back while Jessica slept and he said how he moved to Japan when he was 23 because he loved a Japanese girl but now he isn’t with her so he doesn’t know what he’s doing with his life. Sad :/

Finally I came back! Now I’m here and I just emailed Takuro, that guy that helped me out coming out of Asakusa.

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First Day Going to a Bar

So one of the people from couchsurfing, after texting me a couple times for stuff that I said I wasn’t free for (like ice-skating, no way am I putting myself through that again), texted me today saying he and some friends are going to Kokomo’s, which is that rooftop bar, the first place I ever went when I got here for study abroad. So we are meeting up and 9 and I am just so excited to be DOING something.

Also I gave myself a pretty different haircut. It’s choppy at the front and the same length in the back. The way I just described it, I realize, makes it sound like a mullet, but I think it looks kind of good. Hanh hates it. Jes didn’t really say whether she likes it. So I’m just going to take my chances and wear it around.

I’m cooking more rice. I am so good at saving money. Today I ate several sticks of raw broccoli with soy sauce straight from the bottle. Classay. As well as half a block of raw tofu. And now I’m having rice, thankfully not raw. I can’t believe I’m not losing weight. Probably the two boxes of pocky and the Kinder Bueno per day have something to do with it.

I got a lot more responses on couchsurfing, but now I feel like I’m being creepy by doing that. Am I being creepy? I dunno….

Anyway I will update on how the bar is tomorrow. I plan on skyping with Chris and hopefully  I will see Ming and Joann and maybe Kevin and Joey too since they all live together.

Countdown till Japan: T-3 days =]

First Day in Sanlitun

6/22 8:00 AM

So the Internet in my apartment crashed today. I called up the serviceman but as to be expected they are all on New Year’s break.

Today is New Year’s Eve actually. Fitting that it’s also the first day I go to Sanlitun Village. Which I’ll be honest was just so I could use the internet at Starbucks. But still.

All I can think about is saving for Japan. I’m going to try and not buy any food, at least not counting street food.

Anyway so that’s about all for this morning. I don’t know if I’ll get out tonight, hopefully I’ll find something to do today on the Beijinger.

*****

6/23 7:00 PM

Got some great fireworks shots. 春节快乐!

Kinda pissed because this stupid blog just erased everything that I wrote. Oh well.

So New Year’s Eve, I took a walk around Sanlitun and it was cold and pretty. I should post pictures on this in addition to facebook.

Fireworks were just all over the place, it was awesome. Some were right outside my building, so on the 13th floor I got a super up-close view. People were also playing with sparklers on the ground. What a mess to clean up later though haha.

Fireworks have been going off all day today, New Year’s Day. Maybe the city is actually just under bombing attack. It’s dark though now and I can finally see the fireworks’ light.

Did you see what I did there? I correctly used the apostrophe on fireworks. Thanks Strunk and White, the Elements of Style. Maybe all this studying for the foreign service exam is not going to waste. At least I know all the Canadian provinces now, in addition to many of the protectorates of the great nations such as Guam and Martinique, as well as economic principles that I should have learned instead of earning a C and D in macro and micro. God I hated econ, but I don’t mind it so much now that no one’s making me study it.

A lot of people seem interested in hanging out with me on couchsurfing.

On that note…

JAPAN IN FOUR DAYS!!!!

I can’t wait to go. I can’t wait I can’t wait I CAN’T WAIT.

I met this person Mackenzie on couchsurfing. She seems nice and she’s willing to take me around Tokyo a little bit. Lucky me. OMG I can’t wait. Also I figured out expenses today,  and I know that since I’m cheap I’m going to end up spending way less than I figure, and what I figured is WELL within my budget. It’s true that a meal, a cheap meal in Tokyo, is around 1000 yen or 12 USD, but also true that I have more than enough to cover that because the average meal in China is only around 3 USD.

I’m also going to get a Chinese bank account. I read on the WSJ that it’s good to invest in Chinese currency now while it’s still cheap, because it’s really worth about 3 times what the Chinese say it is. Therefore, when they finally let it appreciate, I’ll have three times more of it. 🙂

Also I managed to fix my internet, using the complex maneuver of unplugging and replugging it. Yay, that problem is gone.

More later.

New stuff!

So let’s start talking about NEW stuff!! 😀

I realized that I should explain my name. I am ChelseaCoconut because it is cold as FUCK in Beijing right now. Maybe I will shorten it to BJ from now on. I actually have a T-shirt that Joey haggled for me once at Yashou that says, in the style of I ❤ NY, I ❤ BJ, which has gotten a lot of immature reactions from my oh-so-mature friends :p

Anyway, I dream of coconuts, and one day of living someplace warm. Philadelphia, Ithaca, Beijing, they’re all just covered in wind and snow and runny noses and misery. I don’t give a fuck if I look like a leather bag when I come out from Miami after 20 years, it will have been entirely worth it.

Anyway so I’ve been in Beijing for a week. Flying over was not a hassle, unlike when I flew over in August last year and was almost arrested for leaving my damn bag unattended for thirty seconds in Detroit. Fuck Detroit.

I’m in Beijing right now, in a fairly small apartment with one other girl, XJ, a consultant at IMS, probably in her mid-twenties and she still has terrible acne (I bought her some Neutrogena from back home as a gift, which I don’t think she used). She’s currently been gone almost my whole time here, since it’s about to be CHINESE NEW YEAR and she went home to Hebei to be with family. She’ll be gone until the 31st. She thinks that my IQ is right around 7, as the bathroom sink doesn’t work and I think I sleptwalked and turned it on and then when I tried to turn it off (completely overflowing by this point) I was too dumb to realize that the handle just wasn’t completely off. Anyway. She now thinks that I am a moron. I am forbidden from using the stove or really any other appliance. I bought a rice cooker. We’ll see if she throws a fit when I get back.

I’m kind of being unfair. She seems really nice. She bought me some slippers to walk around in because, as is Asian style, no shoes are allowed beyond the foyer. She is terrified of roaches, as am I, and I intend to keep this place very clean.

Oh yeah, and all of her beauty products are in the freezer right now. I don’t get it. Yeah the apartment is too hot, but hot enough to melt lotion? I don’t think so…

She has a giant Hello Kitty doll hanging on her door. Her English is pretty good. She’s so Asian. This whole country is so Asian, whoda thunk? I pretty much live off food at 7-11 and off of rice in my rice cooker because I am saving up for something and also because I don’t want to go outside in this horrible Beijing wind, which is probably super polluted. Going vegetarian is going to be so easy. So will starving.

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China Life:

Still can’t drink tap water here. Must boil or bottle. We have a giant jug of purified water with  the little red and blue taps underneath like you see in offices in our house. I have a TV in my room that doesn’t seem to work right now although I tried it before. I sleep on the floor, on a Korean-style tatami mat, and it’s surprisingly comfortable. I can’t buy a bed yet because no one is shipping right now because of the holidays, but I think I might just not. Our bathroom sink as I said does not have a drain, for all intensive purposes it’s a really high-up pool for leprechauns. My roommate has the nice room, but she pays more per month, 2800Y to my 2200. The gas stove does not like unless you help it out with one of those little ignite sticks. We have a nice balcony on the outside, with a view of a golf course and a smokestack. Pollution here in general is indeed pretty bad, with a yellow haze on the city on its worst days and a funny smell on its best. All I do is cook rice. I love it. If only I had some butter.

I can’t wait to go out to a club again soon. Not today, because I’m not going by myself, because that’s sad. When I went out to clubs last semester with my friends, I was a surprising hit with black guys. Like that one night when K danced with that one Korean girl. Haha good times.

Also I just want to record the awesomeness that happened over this past break on New Years. I went over to Cait’s and she made truly incredible food, and I brought shrimp poppers that surprisingly everyone really liked (and sugar cookies that I made that didn’t do so well hehe) and I ended up getting my midnight kiss from Dante, my old boyfriend, and ended up sleeping on the floor with him and her old brother 🙂 SPOONING! LOL ok I’m actually really regretting writing this down, so embarrassing how happy this made me 😛 but anyway. It was a good last hurrah for my friends back home.

The sun is out now actually though, that’s nice. More later on life in China.

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Anyway enough about that silly stuff.

China is, simply put, nothing doing right now. Not until Chinese New Year on the 23rd, anyway. I don’t really have friends yet 😦 I know Tom, Kurt, and Kenny are here, but they all went home for the holiday, so I’m going to be alone for a little while.

Which is why…..

I am going to JAPAN.

On the 27th-31st, I am hitting up the technology capital of the world. It’s around $900, counting hotel (I didn’t think of getting a couchsurfing account until it was too late), but honestly I think it’s still totally worth it. I am so excited. I’ve met several friends (also on couchsurfing) and hopefully the language barrier won’t be too much of a problem. I can’t wait.

I’m keeping it a secret too, from my father because he is unnecessarily concerned about me being near radiation from the earthquake of last March (which is unfounded, as NYC has higher radiation levels than Tokyo and I don’t plan on going north anyway), and from my friends, since I’m already hyper-sensitive to being accused of wanting to be Asian. This trip is for me and me alone 🙂

It was also done because my Chinese F (访问) visa expires the 16th of February, and it’s a multi-entry one, and I didn’t want to waste it. Since I am getting my new work Z visa through LEAP education, the place that I will be teaching at, and there’s no guarantee that they will get me another multi-entry or give me days off to take trips, this is really my last chance, maybe my only chance, to go to Japan. I come back on the 31st and I start work on the 1st haha. I’m staying at the Chisun Inn in Asakusa, and arriving at Narita on the 27th. It’s supposed to be very close to the Ueno Zoo and Sensoji Temple. I can’t wait to see if they actually have squirrels for exhibits there.

Oh yeah, I quit my job at CGTI. They were offering me 5000 a month, which is roughly five bucks an hour, which is ROUGHLY jack shit, even in China, because even though in China that’s more than enough to live on, that is WAY less than any expat should take. And I refused to listen to all my friends and family who told me that, because I’m a stubborn idiot. But the breaking point came when I went to work last Thursday, and got there early, around 8:30 AM. Someone was in my old desk spot. There was a photo hanging up of all the CGTI members in which I was not present. The email list tacked to the wall did not have MY email there, even though my email has been made. As I sat there eating my dumplings and taking this in, I realized that for once in my life, maybe I shouldn’t just take this lying down. I should go find a company that will actually appreciate my skills.

And I walked out.

I might not have done that if I weren’t about to start working for LEAP education. They are paying me 6000 Chinese yuan for the first month, 7 the next, and 9 forever more. It pisses me off that even with training in the first two months, I’m STILL making more than I would be at CGTI, and I have NO training in this English teaching schtick whatsoever to begin with!

The future is bright. Teaching English is only from 3-8 on weekdays, and then one of the weekend days. Not bad, and I still have time to do things during the day.

AND I’m going to Japan. I thought about it and I realized that if they have offered Japanese in my high school as well as Chinese, I probably would have taken Japanese. I just have the biggest super secret obsession with Japan.

I’m the luckiest little expat alive.

First Day on the Blog

I always thought blogs were self-promoting and lame. I’m not entirely sure I don’t still think that actually. But I can’t deny the value of logging my life experiences and keeping them to share with others and my grandchildren – and to stay true to myself, I’m not sharing this blog with anyone until many years later. I just have to say that there are a lot of experiences that were awesome but that I’ve forgotten the details of, and so the blog commences. Actually, today finding that my roommate has filled up our shared freezer with beauty products and lotion, I realize now that I have a need to write down these small details for reflection later. My dad always said I should keep a diary anyway, which I never did expressly because he told me to, a decision that I now regret, and therefore today I will start making a record of my majestic daily life.

A brief, self-promoting bio:

My name is Chelsea and I’ve just graduated from Cornell University, with a more or less useless degree in Chinese culture. To make up for the stupidity of choosing such a lame liberal arts major in one of the worst economies of our time, I am currently in China now trying to look for a job, and just in general enjoy the fact that I’m in such a cheap country that my savings will be more than enough to hold me over for a while if I can’t find a job. One American dollar, or about 7 yuan, can get you two meals. I also went to China to get away from everyone that I hate. Which is a surprising number of people. Although I found that after being here, maybe I don’t hate them as much as I thought I did. I miss some of them in fact.

I have a younger brother who is in the merchant marines, S, at KP, in his second year of engineering now. I have a father who teaches math and engineering. My mother is not in the picture, but as I understand it she too was an engineer. Most of my extended family is in engineering. It explains why so many of us are socially challenged! Haha well not really, but my family is quite a smart bunch of people and there’s a lot of pressure on us younger kids to do well, which is fine.

I studied abroad in China last semester. Not my first time here, I went in the winter of 09-10 to Beijing and Hangzhou and I hated it (probably the culture shock, coupled with my shyness of that time made making friends difficult). However I loved last semester, I was with a great bunch of people. There was Ch, my “white friend”, my bai ren, still probably the coolest guy I know. There was T, my roommate from DC and Beijing, a Chinese girl raised in Nanjing till she was 10 and came to America; we’re not super close but we would go shopping if we got the chance. There was K, who frankly was always pretty mean to me, but I guess that’s just how he is. There was J, who was the attractive one that all the girls liked 🙂 he had a girlfriend most of the time but we still saw him a lot. There was Ci who I worked with at China Greentech Initiative, she was fun on the rare times she actually came to work. There was T, Chris’s Korean roommate and student at Beida. There were Ku and Ke, Chris’s friends.

This past winter break, I was at home, taking a break from China and enjoying major access to cheese. My brother and his girlfriend / our friend who worked on the ship with me as well La were there for Christmas. We didn’t do anything as usual because my dad gets the holiday blues like crazy, and also J has moved to Florida as of last April, and my dad is seeing K semi-seriously now. I should introduce them all actually. Judy is kind of my mother figure, she and my dad have been on-and-off since her son Clark and I were in fourth grade, so it’s been about 12-13 years…wow. After getting laid off from Lenox she got a job at Arthrex in Florida so my dad is kind of seeing other women such as Kathy. I don’t know much about it. Clark is in his last semester at Connecticut (I should be in my last semester too but Dad made me graduate early, something that I’m pretty sure I’ll regret.) I visited Florida for 6 days to see my grandparents and Judy. We saw an alligator super up-close in Nana’s development. Florida was surprisingly cold, why does cold weather follow me everywhere?

Anyway this is old news. Background information is done. On with the new. 🙂